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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Red Wall of Support

Sometimes you stumble into something and you learn about its significance later. That’s what happened to me on Saturday.

My brother-in-law turned right onto a street in Columbia, Missouri that was lined with Harley Davidsons as I looked on from the passenger seat. The motorcycles had signage that identified their owners as the Patriot Guard Riders.

Everywhere we looked, we saw the American flag. Every motorcycle displayed one and many people who were milling around had one in their hands. One person draped a huge flag across his or her truck’s tailgate.

My brother-in-law and I kicked around ideas about what might be going on – a patriotism parade of some sort or annual festival? Neither one of us is from Columbia, so we had no idea. We were there from my niece’s soccer tournament.

The mood wasn’t festive. It was somber, determined.

I shot a few photos with my cell phone from inside the vehicle and figured I would look up the event later. Once I was back in my hotel room, I found this article in the Columbia Tribune: ‘Red Wall’ of supporters comfort fallen soldier’s family.

Turns out that Columbia native Sterling Wyatt, 21, was killed while serving in Afghanistan on July 11 and when an acquaintance found at that the hatemongers from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka planned to protest Wyatt’s funeral, she decided to organize a small gathering to show Wyatt’s family their support.

She had no idea that thousands of people would show up.

They wore red shirts, forming a red shield to protect Wyatt’s family as they entered First Baptist Church to mourn the loss of their loved one. The line of support also ran along Broadway Street and on the route to the funeral home.

The event occurred after the Boone County Fair parade. Apparently, my brother-in-law and I arrived after the parade and the funeral, because, like I said, the mood was somber and the supporters seemed to be breaking up.

The good news is, the red wall worked. The newspaper reported that “About six people from the Westboro group held signs at College and Broadway, although most of the messages were blocked by American flags that Patriot Guard members waved nearby.”

Several times, Wyatt’s family came out of the church to thank the supporters. I imagine the tears flowed both ways.

I wasn’t wearing red that day, but as I wrote this after learning about what took place, I envisioned myself wearing a red shirt.


As I was about to post this, I found this video on YouTube about the Patriot Guard Riders. They have been showing up at funerals of fallen soldiers for years. God bless this group for mourning with those who mourn. 


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